One of the things I regretted in my busy solo summer was that I did not visit my dad in the nursing home as much as I would have liked. My mom had him home for a couple of afternoons, and we had a big bash for Father's Day, but I just didn't get up to see him that often. I was busy holding down the fort at the church, writing sermons and funeral sermons (we had twelve funerals this summer), and checking up on people, and trying to get ready for the fall.
But last week our interim Senior Pastor arrived, and he is encouraging me to take some comp time, to do things like clean my house and make doctors appointments, and just rest a little. So this afternoon, before starting on the dirty dishes, and wiping out that cupboard or sweeping the closet that has accumulated dog hair, I went up to see my dad.
He was sitting in the common area, paging through a magazine. He seemed happy to see me, although I wasn't sure at first he knew who I was. I asked him several times, and he seemed puzzled, but it turns out that he has lost his hearing aid again. Finally, he said my name, ("of course!"), and told the old knock-knock joke associated with me. It seems that I was helping with the dishes once when I was very small. I turned to my parents and said, "Knock knock." They answered, "Who's there?" "Dishes," I said, thinking about the dishes in the sink. "Dishes who?" "Dishes Diane." My father has told that joke ever since.
So today he called me, "Dishes Diane," and continued to page through the magazine. It seemed that he was looking for something, but I don't know what. When he finished that magazine, I found him another. He seemed to enjoy just paging through the pages.
I told him a few riddles. He knew the answers to some, but not to all of them. He couldn't remember what he had for lunch, so he said, "Filet Mignon."
Someone came by with chocolate chip cookies and coffee for break. We each munched one cookie.
I couldn't think of what to say, so I asked if we could say the Lord's Prayer together. I know, it seems like a pastor thing to do, but he used to say it with me before I went to bed, when I was a little girl. So we said the Lord,'s prayer, the old version, and then I said I would have to go.
He said something about saying the Lord's Prayer when he went to bed. I asked him if he still did that. "Not any more," he said. "I used to."
"You said it now," I told him. "Was that good?"
Sometimes I think I ought to bring something every time I visit my dad. Once I brought him an old riddle book, another time I knitted a shawl. I think it would have been nice to get him something, a stuffed animal, one of those funny ones that sings when you push on the tummy or the ears. You know what I mean.
But in the end, I just came with my empty hands, and the Lord's Prayer.